Recently, I ran across a poem by Langston Hughes:
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
According to Delores Moore, Hughes was describing the deep frustration of the American blacks to racial prejudice in 1951 — and predicting the explosive future.
Six decades later, Langston Hughes’ poem is still relevant in a world where so many of us defer our dreams until later in life, thinking we’ll have more time, or more money, or more opportunity.
But for some, “later” never happens.
• A blast in the local fertilizer plant flattens half the town …
• A stroke fells the lover we once had …
• A garment factory collapses in Bangladesh, killing hundreds …
• Or celebrating a loved one’s marathon effort on a shining April afternoon explodes into a mass of shrapnel, blood, and shattered limbs…
For those of watching on the sidelines, can anything good emerge from such grief and pain? Can distant tragedies have the power to change the way we live our lives at home?
Maybe, either in honor or defiance, we can choose to give our dreams a chance — and not let them dry up, or fester, or stink.
What’s my dream? Writing the longform journalism stories that have been tugging at my sleeve for years — deferred because they’re unlikely to pay the bills.
I have no direct ties to Boston, nor do I know any of the dead or injured beyond the intimate and gruesome details we all saw. Yet, three weeks ago the Tsarnaev brothers changed the way I view my work.
I no longer send my creative time to the bottom of the list, to evenings and late nights, when my energy level has sagged.
Now writing comes first, re-assigned to my personal prime time, to those golden morning hours. It may seem like a trivial adjustment, a mere tweaking of the time clock. After all, I won’t be turning down paying assignments. But, to me, by giving these untold stories precedence over billable hours, I’m giving my writing dream a chance.
So. What about you? What dreams have you deferred?
And what event has changed the way you choose to live and work?